Pricing for Artists
How to Price and Sell
Lower Priced Art
Q: You often encourage artists to lower their prices in order to increase sales and become more competitive. My prices are comparable to those of other artists in my area and they always have been. Do you mean they should be even lower? How much art is for sale in these really low price ranges?
A: In answer to your first question, how you decide to set your selling prices is entirely up to you. Lower priced works of art, no matter what they are, tend to sell faster and in greater numbers than higher priced pieces. Adjusting your art prices in any direction impacts your sales; the greater a downward adjustment, the more you generally sell-- a suggestion I regularly make to artists who may not be selling much now, want to increase sales, and get more of their artworks out into the public. You can still offer higher priced works of art alongside the more affordable ones; you don't have to drop prices on everything.
Keep in mind that for most artists, selling art is an important part of what they do, and especially selling plenty of it. When they do that job well, they establish good solid track records of making regular sales. Think about it. What sounds better? That you sold ten pieces of art last month? Or one? Or none? If you tell someone you're selling ten pieces of art per month, they don't care what you're selling them for; they're just plain impressed that you're selling so much. Who knows? They might even decide to take a closer look at your art and maybe even buy a piece themselves. Also keep in mind that gallery owners hardly love anything more than artists who sell.
And another thing-- if demand for your art is modest, it makes no sense to price higher than lower given the choice. Higher prices make buying harder for anyone thinking about buying, and more hesitant or unsure about spending the money. There's no upside to a strategy like that. The affordable approach makes way more sense if you're having trouble selling. Nothing is better for your reputation than to having satisfied buyers who love your prices as much as your art. Plus happy buyers will sing your praises to anyone who asks about your art. As for increasing prices, when you get to the point where you're selling regularly or can't make art fast enough to keep up with demand-- that's the time to start raising prices, not when things are slow or you're trying to sell more.
Another thing to think about is that people who are considering buying their first piece of your art or any artist's art generally prefer to start with more affordable lower priced work. They often want to go slowly and follow your art, your progress, and career to see how things develop. As they become bigger and bigger fans, that's the point when they'll consider buying more expensive pieces. But in the meantime, those small sales can really add up.
When lowering prices, assuming you decide to lower them, or in providing lower priced alternatives to your more expensive art, never denigrate or treat them as inferior to your higher priced art. In other words, make sure buyers feel like they're getting your best efforts no matter what price range they buy in. You want every last person who owns your art to feel like they are getting quality examples created with just as much care and attention as your more expensive work. Lower priced pieces may be smaller, less detailed, or whatever else you have to simplify in order to produce them, but one thing that they should never be is inferior in quality and in the care you take to create them.
Too many artists unknowingly sabotage their lower priced works, either verbally or in other ways like how or where they show them, what they say about them, or how they handle or treat them as if to say to buyers, "Since you don't want to pay for the best, you can take your pick from these rejects here." Disparaging any works of your art is never good. The best way to cultivate repeat buyers is to respect their choices, their budgets, and their reasons for buying whatever art they can afford. You never know when a buyer who starts small might someday go on to become one of your biggest collectors. Allowing for that possibility is just plain good sense.
In answer to your second question about the availability of reasonably priced art in the marketplace, there's an incredible amount of art for sale out there that can be purchased for under $1000 per piece, and often for well under that amount. All you have to do is go online and look around, particularly on Instagram, Etsy, Facebook, etc. You'll find it everywhere, and tons of it. One truth that the Internet has revealed to all of us is that there's far more art out there, many more competent artists, and many more affordable artworks available for sale than any of us would ever have imagined pre-Internet.
If you're offering your art for sale online, seriously consider showing a good selection of reasonably priced works alongside your more expensive examples. Most artists as well as people who run gallery, social media pages, and artist websites will tell you that most online sales are typically in lower price ranges, especially to first-time buyers. Higher priced works do sell, although mainly by better-known artists with significant accomplishments, resumes and followings. The good news is that as people have become increasingly comfortable buying online, more higher priced sales are happening. For those who are still getting used to the idea of buying online or who are inquiring about your art for the first time, help them out by giving them the option of not having to risk too much money.
You also mention in your email that your prices are competitive with those of other artists in your area. Do you mean all other artists in your area or just those artists you know, those artists who you choose to compare yourself with, or those artists you think make art as good as yours? If you're selling online, do you mean all other artists who sell online or just those you selectively follow or who you think make art that compares favorably to yours? What you may not be taking into account is that art buyers don't generally limit the types of artists they buy from. They buy whatever thrills them the most, and that means all kinds of art by all kinds of artists. In other words, you have to keep the big picture in mind, especially in terms of what's available online, and continually compare your prices not only with a select group of artists you choose to follow, but to all artists and all available art.
The more art selling situations you can be competitive in, the more art you're going to sell. The more art you sell, the more people will be able to hang it in their collections where other people will see it. The more people who see it, the greater the chances that some of those people will like what they see, start following you, and hopefully one day buy from you as well. And onward and upward you go. The strange-but-true truth is that lowering your prices may ultimately turn out to be a surprisingly effective strategy for raising them.
(art by Ai Weiwei)
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